Amid the expense and controversy surrounding America’s effort at fifth-generation piloted aircraft, like the F-35 and the F-22, there is the silent but hard fact that unmanned drones are poised to make piloted jets a thing of the past.
The idea is regularly tossed around, but to highlight the fact, here is a flight deck crewman aboard the USS Truman guiding the X-47B unmanned drone across the deck of an American carrier. It’s a scene that has always had a pilot looking back from the cockpit, until now.
The X-47B is aboard the Truman to perfect one of the more challenging feats in aviation today by taking off and landing aboard the carrier deck. It’s a process fraught with hazards that requires crew at the landing site to wave a pilot off should something become amiss. A “foul deck” sends someone waving their arms telling the pilot to pull up and try again.
For an X-47B landing, all that move would require is the flip of a switch.
We’ve reached out to the USS Truman’s command requesting a visit to see the X-47B in person, but no word yet on whether they’re accepting press visits. In the meantime we’ll have to make due with videos like this from Northrop Grumman and the Navy.